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Industry, large and small, has played a major role in the
development of Transylvania County.  Throughout
the mid- and late-20th century Ecusta and DuPont were the largest
industries and major employers in the county but there have been, and continue
to be, numerous other local industries and manufacturers.

Branson’s North Carolina Business Directories from the mid-
and late-19th century list blacksmithing and wheelwrighting,
carpentry, gun and silversmithing, millwrighting, saddles and harness, wagon
and buggy, and wool carding as types of manufactories in Transylvania County.  In addition grist, saw, and planing mills are
listed.  Listings include the name of the
proprietor and the post office for the business.

The 1890 directory lists Brevard Lumber and Mfg. Co. owned
by T.L. Clark, H.L. Pixly, and L.G. Siniard and a tannery owned by C.C.
Patton.  These show the direction local industry
would move during the early- to mid-20th century when logging, lumber, and
tanning became the major local industries. 
Joseph Silversteen and Louis Carr provided employment for hundreds of
local workers for about 50 years.  For
shorter periods Brevard Tannin, Moltz Lumber, and Shaffer Lumber also ran
businesses related to the logging industry.

Other local manufacturers established in the early 1900s
included Wheeler Hosiery (featured last week), Pisgah Mills, and Barnett’s
Machine Shop.

Barnett’s Machine Shop

Sid Barnett was
the head machinist for Brevard Tannin. 
When the tannin plant closed Barnett bought the lathes and welding
machines and opened his own shop at the intersection of Hendersonville Hwy and
Wilson Road in 1923.

A November
23, 1939 Transylvania Times article announced the Barnett’s Machine Shop was
being updated with new ultra-modern machines, including lathes, gear cutters,
and planing mills.  A new 300-amp
portable electric Westinghouse welding machine was now available for off-site
jobs.  Barnett had also recently added
space to the shop and a new supply building. 
He had 11 employees at the time.

Inside Banett’s Machine Shop.  Jim Lyday is second from left.

For nearly
80 years farmers, mechanics and businesses throughout the area relied on
Barnett’s to custom built anything they needed made of metal and for metal
repair work.  After Sid retired his son
Ned took over operation of the shop. 
Barnett’s Machine Shop closed in 2000.

With the
recent demolition of the old shop several members of the Transylvania County
Historical Society shared memories of visits to Barnett’s.  Keith Parker described a “long drive
shaft along the ceiling driven by an old engine out back (model A perhaps) with
different belts coming down to drive lathes, drills and other machines as
needed. Today safety laws would never permit such but I was fascinated by it
all and how smoothly it ran.”   Mac Morrow added that, “Ned changed over to Bridgeport
mills and CNC lathes by 1976.”

Jim Lyday’s grandfather, also
Jim Lyday, was Barnett’s first employee. 
He worked as a lathe operator at the shop for over 30 years until
retiring at the age of 75.  Gene Baker
remembered another long time employee, Fred Gillespie.  Gillespie was the caterpillar mechanic.

All agreed
that Barnett, his sons and employees all had reputations as highly respected,
gifted and talented tradesmen.

Photographs and
information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina
Room, Transylvania County Library.  Visit
the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about
our history and see additional photographs. 
For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at
[email protected] or
828-884-3151 X242.

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(828) 884-3151

212 S Gaston St, Brevard, NC 28712